In the last week or so a massive purge has taken place in the world of online bingo (and is still going on, with some sites yet to react). It all started back in October when the Gambling Commission wrote to operators regarding the use of images in their advertising that are likely to appeal particularly to under 18s – including “all graphics and images displayed on a website or in third party media” . Specifically, “the use of particular colours, cartoon and comic book images, animals, child- and youth-orientated references and names of games such as “Piggy Payout”, “Fluffy Favourites”, “Pirate Princess” and “Jack and the Beanstalk” are likely, alone or in combination, to enhance appeal to under 18s”.
The first result of this letter was that operators began to restrict the free play versions and the promotion of certain slots (not just the four that were name checked in the letter). Some operators including most Dragonfish bingo sites made the slots in question invisible to the casual visitor – and only accessible to account holders once they had logged in. Other operators removed the cartoon characters from the images on their slots page and restricted the free play versions to logged in account holders – so for example, it is still possible for the casual visitor to Mecca Bingo to see that Fluffy Favourites can be played there – but the image now has not one cuddly toy in sight and although there is a Free Play button, login is required to access the demo version.
The second phase of enforcement is now under way and it’s carnage! For example, Wish Bingo used to be fronted by a smiling blue cartoon genie but visit the site now and he’s nowhere to be seen:
Once signed up and logged in, players can access the members page and promotions page where they will discover the genie alive and well (for obvious reasons, we can’t show you a picture of him).
Cartoon characters at Dragonfish bingo sites such as Spy Bingo and Cozy bingo sites such as Merlin Bingo are less fortunate as there, the theming is just a backdrop and does not extend into the promotions or bingo rooms. At some sites the backdrop has been completely removed leaving plain white space and at others, the cartoon characters have been photoshopped out (Merlin used to have a wizard and an owl but now they have both vanished).
It’s not just bingo sites that are affected either – casino and slot sites are also having to give cartoon characters their marching orders and again, this can take the form of complete removal – as in the case of the blue cartoon monster that used to front Spinzilla – or age-gating – as in the case of the player avatar at Casumo, which (along with all of the gamification and level progression at this fun casino) is hidden in the members area.
As well as seeing almost all of the cartoon characters removed or age-gated on all the bingo and casino sites that have yet to respond (there could be exceptions where the cartoons are clearly very adult orientated as seen, for instance, at Big Tease Bingo), we expect this purge to have a major effect on the design of slot games for the UK market in the future. This won’t happen immediately as slot games take months to develop, but once all the games that are currently under construction have been released the next wave are likely to to have darker and more adult themes. Microgaming’s Immortal Romance slot, for example, has graphic novel style characters – but no-one has suggested (not yet anyway) that they could possibly have any particular appeal to children rather than to adults.
We also expect the launch of many new bingo sites to be delayed as no doubt they will need a major design rethink!